Robin Cappuccino is currently traveling to all of the Child Haven homes – here are some thoughts from road.
Namaskaar from our Child Haven Home in Savarsai, Maharashtra, India. Our 48 children and eight staff people live in a bucolic rural setting over-looking a lush valley with a rambling river, roaming water buffalo and rolling hills. Our visits often begin with a Welcoming Program of songs, dances, recitations and often short skits, gymnastics and the like.
The photos show some of the dances and a group of 4th graders singing “We Shall Overcome”, one of the Top Ten hits in all our Homes, doubtless taught by North American volunteers over the years. These kids go to an English Medium School, so they probably understand the words, but I’ll have to remember to bring some picture books about the civil rights movement on a future trip.
The Home had just been celebrating Diwali, and an aspect of that celebration in Marathi-speaking parts of India (such as this one) is for children to make mud forts in remembrance of Shivaraj and his adventures. The kids got into this tradition with a passion to such an extent that Sheetal, who washes the little kids clothes complained loudly at our meeting with the staff about how muddy the kid’s clothes were that she was having to wash. What began as forts, became whole farm-scapes and houses as the pictures show.
In addition to meeting with staff, we try to meet with the older children as a group, usually the boys and girls separately, and then with any individual kids that wish to meet alone for whatever reason. One such meeting this time was with one of our college girls whose father and older brother are pressuring her strongly to leave her studies and get married. She happens to be a very talented student and quite torn between her family’s wishes and her desire to have a career and a different kind of life than has been possible for her family.
Our Child Haven Homes are just that, homes and not orphanages. We encourage the kids to maintain contact with whatever family members they have. Many of the children still have one parent, or a grandmother, or aunt or uncle who although they could not support their child, still care about them.
Our efforts to help each child become a self-supporting adult able to contribute to their community by sending them to college or vocational school sometimes runs counter to family desires to arrange marriages for their daughters, or bring sons home to help support the family. When that happens many passionate conversations are had, and options discussed. We ask our young people to think carefully and to make what they feel is the best choice for themselves.
Some of our children are complete orphans. A few of them have asked us to arrange marriages for them feeling that to be their best choice. So, our staff arrange their marriages in keeping with traditional practices, paying great attention of course to finding deserving life-partners. The student we met with in Savarsai is a very good writer and just wrote a story about her life so far. I did my best to encourage her to be sure that she was the author of the rest of her life story whatever that story might be. I’ve enjoyed watching her grow and evolve over the past 13 years. I look forward to the rest of her story.
Tomorrow we will be at our home in Kathmandu.
Until next time,
Robin Cappuccino for CHI
Stay tuned for more ‘thoughts from the road’ as Robin continues his journey through the CHI homes in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Tibet.